Saturday, February 11, 2012

Neighborhood Activism in the Southeast District

A citizen living in the new residential development south of 57th Street between the new bridges over 57th Street and 69th Street has decided to get involved in the Railroad Relocation Project. This southeast resident has put together the flyer below and is handing it out in the neighborhood. This person indicated to me that the majority of the residents indicated they knew nothing about the issue and don't subscribe to the local newspaper. Very disturbing considering the fact that a switching railroad line accommodating 100 car trains could be in their backyard in the distant future.

At issue is the city's proposal to select the Canton rail line as the siding alternative in the relocation of the main switching yard in Downtown Sioux Falls. The city says they need the smaller switching yard to allow railroad crews to move the engine from one end of the train to the other. The city says that the two new bridges at 57th Street and 69th Street make this an attractive site for an alternate siding option for these trains.

They have chosen an area that is totally residential which will impact the quality of lives of thousands of residents. They are choosing to sacrifice the citizens in the Southeast District of Sioux Falls.

In addition, the entire east side of Sioux Falls will be impacted at the intersections of 49th and Southeastern Avenue, 26th Street and Southeastern Avenue and 14th Street and Southeastern Avenue and Cliff Avenue between 14th and 10th Streets. People need to wake up and get involved in this issue or they will certainly be woken up to the sound of the clickity clack of the trains moving on those rail lines, tooting of train horns at all hours of the day and night and the traffic congestion and blockage on the east side corridor of Sioux Falls.

This resident informed me that in talking with Southeast District Councilor Sue Aquilar, she said she wasn't sure the city might have little say in where the tracks are relocated. How can that be possible? If the City Council does not have final approval on this project then who does? This is a city project and the City Council, by Charter, has final authority over all appropriations. This project does not move forward without Council action.

Below is the flyer being distributed to neighbors in the Southeast District of Sioux Falls. Let's hope they all pay attention to what is being proposed for their neighborhood.

You and the Railroad Relocation Project

City Staff will brief the City Council at Carnegie City Hall on the latest developments on Feb. 27, at 4:00 P.M.

On Feb. 27, the public will be able to present their comments at a meeting to be held at the Orpheum Theatre on Phillips Avenue. Meeting time is 6:00 P.M.  to 8:00 P.M.

In 2005, the City of Sioux Falls secured an earmark of $40,000,000 with the help of Senators Thune and Johnson. The purpose of this money was to pay for the removal of some of the tracks and the relocations of the switching yard in the downtown area.  Once this can be accomplished, the railroads would be able to sell this land to investors in the downtown area. 

The City has floated a number of proposals for this relocation project. One of the more recent ones is to move the switching yard to the area between 57th Street and 69th street. This would mean that we would have two tracks in our backyard, a lot of movement and noise at all times of day,  and trains parked there for extended periods of time.

This would have a huge impact on the quality of your life and on your property values. While it would affect property owners south of 57th street the most directly, it would also affect property owners north of 57th street because of increased train traffic through this neighborhood. Street crossings would be also blocked more frequently. 

I recommend that you read the attached links to learn more about how this project could affect you.


  1. I absolutely love the hypocrisy, Jennifer who thinks everyone should put their personal objections aside and support downtown at all costs for event centers and anything else downtown wants, now is opposed to the project that will arguably have the greatest development impact of all downtown because it may change things in her backyard....I love it!

    This just exposes you and the other downtown hypocrites for what you are.

    So Jennifer, what's your proposal to move the RR tracks? Come on, time to quit whining and complaining about everyone else's ideas and put forward a solution instead of just another complaint.

    By the way, if you really think the city controls this project as you suggested, then you really don't understand this project at the level you like to portray. The feds and the railroad companies control every aspect of it and they couldn't care less if these rails ever move.

    Can't wait for your response, that is, if you'll actually allow this to be posted for others to read.

  2. Still another reason that I'm convinced that Sue Aquilar is completely ineffective for us - when is her term up? We live on Marson Drive - not all that far from Aquilar - and I know firsthand what a pain these trains can be (in blocking foot and vehicle traffic @ Marson and Southeastern). By the way, how much of a tantrum will My Mistake Mike throw when HE gets stuck waiting for a train at this very location as he tries to get back to his house in his upper-crust neighborhood overlooking Pasley's BB fields?

  3. First, you attack me personally but don't have enough conviction or character to sign your name to your statement. Second, I have not changed in my support of the Railroad Relocation Project. I object to the siding alternative which is not the main switching line. The Canton siding alternative was just recently brought up in the July update for consideration. Before you start attacking me, maybe you should get your facts straight. And if you want to start a dialogue with me, sign your name or your next comment will not be posted.

  4. I know lets push the unattractive railyard into Brandon. That way we can grow our downtown, increase our tax base, and not affect our property values. Then we can use our new fancy bridges to get from the "Eastside " to work or shopping without any delay's. After all we are the biggest city in the state and we deserve the benifits of it. I my opinion if Sioux Falls wants to move it it needs to stay in Mtheir outter city limits. Better yet I hope the EA comes back and neither of the 2 proposed sites are approved and they lose the money all together because of expiration of the time line and to Government saves themselves the 35 million thats left. Come on people uou are complaining of a siding line thats 1 rail line next to an exsisting line that was there long before there were even developments in the area "you poor babies", I would like to know why the switching yard wasn't proposed for country area between SF and Harrisburg. It sure would make better sense than building it in the area of a river and the State park land. Thats my take on it and expect a battle from the nieghboring residents from Brandon who don't want it in our backyard either. I say "Leave it downtown"!

  5. I have followed the railroad relocation project for the past ten years.

    Councilor Aguilar is incorrect when she states that the City will have little say in this project. At the July 5th, 2011 Council Informational meeting (see the Railroad Relocation Project Director, Mark Cotter (Director of Public Works) stated that it is the City of Sioux Falls that is driving this project not Burlington Northern (BNSF).

    In addition, the project will require millions of local tax dollars to supplement the federal earmark, and it is the Council who will be casting the vote on whether or not to appropriate this money. BTW, local officials have been unwillingly to state exactly how many local tax dollars will be needed to complete this project!!

    There is a way to stop this project....and that is what is occurring now.....PUBLIC OPPOSITION!

    All three pieces of this project face significant local opposition (relocation of the switchyard, a second bridge over the Falls, a rail siding in SE SF)!!

    The removal of the downtown switchyard to an area north of Rice Street was originally planned for the west side of Timberline Road. Because of multiple issues including a history of flooding it was moved to the east side of Timberline. At this point, the City of Brandon entered the picture because of their opposition to the proximity of the switchyard to Brandon properties.

    The other two points of contention are the possibility of a second bridge over the Falls or a rail siding in southeastern Sioux Falls. One of these two options must be chosen in order to reconfigure the rail lines.

    Sioux Falls taxpayers have invested millions of dollars in the rehabilitation of Falls Park which makes the possibility of a second bridge over the falls unacceptable.

    A rail siding (whether it is south of 57th or 69th) will have a negative impact on property values all along the line as the increased train traffic moves back and forth between downtown and southern SF. Of equal importance are the safety and traffic concerns that will be created on major streets throughout the eastern part of our community. This will only be exacerbated as the city grows to the east and southeast. Let's be clear about this: the major objective of the project is not to protect the safety of SF citizens, it is to free up 16 acres of downtown land for commercial and residential development!!!

    Both Senators Johnson and Thune have stated that the federal earmark is at risk. As soon as the environmental assessment (EA) is completed, there will be a rush by local officials to sign-off on this project.

    It is imperative if you oppose any piece of this project, that you speak out now, contact your local, state, and federal officials, write letters to the editor and SHOW UP AT THE PUBLIC INPUT MEETINGS!!! A demonstration of local opposition can stop this project.

  6. Folks, lets get some facts straight. First of all, the CITY of Sioux Falls is the lead and driving force in this project. They control what sites are proposed for the main switchyard as well as the sidings. The Feds have the final say of which site is preferred. The railroad companies have some minor input but have stated they are fine leaving the main rail switchyard downtown.

    Currently there are 2 sites being proposed for the main switchyard (12 or more lines of track). One is within the city limits of Sioux Falls on the west side of Rice Street and north of Great Bear. The other site is outside the city limits of Sioux Falls and is north of Rice Street bordering Brandon city limits (immediately adjoining business and residental properties). Keep in mind, the "Brandon" site is NOT in the Sioux Falls growth area but is in the Brandon growth area.

    The siding proposed for SE Sioux Falls is in a residental area. While it is not the main switchyard, it definately will have a negative impact on the area.

    The proposed Brandon main swithcyard site as well as the SE Sioux Falls siding site are too close to current homes and businesses. Problems residents will be dealing with: 24 hours noise, visual clutter, pollution, traffic congestion, impacted future growth, decreased property values, etc.

    The entire rail relocation project needs to be moved to an area that does not have significant impact on Sioux Falls residents and residents of neighboring communities. It needs to be moved far away from people.

    Another idea to consider is to leave the current downtown switchyard where it is and take the $34 million and use that money to remove some of the major at grade crossing within the city of Sioux Falls. Some problem at grade crossings: north 60th street, north Minnesota, Cliff Avenue by Avera, 26th street by Cliff Avenue Greenhouse and many more. Removing problem at grade crossings will positively impact more people daily than moving the main switchyard.

  7. Jennifer, thank you for personally responding to anonymous at 1:48 p.m. Why do discussions on community issues so often disintegrate into personal attacks!!?


    I just looked at the official announcement of the railroad relocation meetings at on the home page.

    There is a problem with the way that the meetings have been set up and that is TRANSPARENCY!!

    **The announcement reads: Each of the meetings will begin with a 30 minute presentation followed by the opportunity to speak one-on-one with city, state, and federal staff to provide the project team valuable feedback on the project. **end of announcement**

    This public input is in fact an official part of the environmental assessment (EA) process. By having participants wandering around the room interacting one-on-one with officials it guarantees that there will be NO OFFICIAL public record of their input. I believe that the meetings have been intentionally set up in this way!

    Instead, this meeting needs to have a structured Q & A session led by a panel of city, state, and federal officials that is recorded on SIRE. This guarantees not only that all citizens will receive the same answer to any given question, but that those taxpayers that are not able to attend the meeting can view it on

    Also, participants need to have the option of submitting their question in writing AT the meeting OR by being able to verbally ask the panel of assembled officials. IF it is not set up in this fashion, those running the meeting will determine what questions are asked and not the audience!!

    AND, most importantly there will be a public record of the formal presentation and the Q & A.

    This set up was used on multiple occasions for the EC discussion. Certainly, the railroad relocation project and its potential far-reaching consequences deserves the same coverage!!

    It will be important for Brandon to also have a public record of their meeting which is Tuesday, February 28th from 6 to 8 at the Brandon Municipal Golf Course.

    For anyone who is interested in giving public input there are also additional opportunities at the Council meetings on February 13th and 21st at 7:00 pm. at Carnegie Town Hall. You are entitled to 5 minutes at the beginning of the meeting.

    Time is SHORT, the need for public input is NOW.

  8. Leave everything as is and give the money back. $35 million dollars to move railroad tracks? That's our priority? Moving existing well functioning rail lines? No wonder our country is damn near bankrupt and we constantly borrow from the Chinese. And the music just keeps on playing......

  9. GREAT post CR. You are absolutely correct about the question and answer sessions. These meeting should have STRUCTURED Q&A sessions. Sioux Falls does not want input. They want to push this forward without resistance.